“Voting is matter of choice”: Delhi High Court quashes PIL for compulsory voting in elections

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The Delhi High Court refused to entertain a PIL that sought direction to the Centre and the Election Commission to make voting compulsory in the Parliament and Assembly polls.

The Delhi High Court on Friday refused to entertain a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) moved by Advocate and BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay for compulsory voting in the Parliament and State Assembly elections for an increase in voter turnout and political participation.

The division bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad said that voting is a matter of choice and judges are not lawmakers who can pass such directions.

The bench also added that it cannot force a person in Chennai to come back to his hometown in Srinagar and vote there.

"We are not lawmakers. We cannot pass such directions. Is there any provision in the Constitution that makes voting compulsory?” the bench asked.

Court warned the petitioner that it would dismiss the petition with costs after which the petitioner withdrew it.

The petition said, "When voter turnout is high, the government is more accountable to the people and is more likely to act in their best interests." It further stated that compulsory voting promotes political participation by making voting a civic duty, and when voting is compulsory, people are more likely to take an interest in politics and get engaged in the democratic process.

The PIL cited examples of countries like Australia, Belgium, and Brazil, which have implemented compulsory voting and said that that they have seen significant increases in voter turnout and improvements in the quality of democracy.

As an alternative prayer, the plea urged the court to direct the Election Commission to use its plenary constitutional power under Article 324 of the Constitution of India to increase voters’ turnout in the elections for parliament and State Assemblies. It also sought direction from the Law Commission to prepare a report on compulsory voting.

Case Title: Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay vs. Union of India & Ors.